Amid a global slowdown in the ICT (information and communication technology) sector, South Korea's exports plunged 35.9% year-on-year to USD 127.7 billion in April '23.
Despite this, the country recorded a trade surplus of USD 2.33 billion on imports of USD 104.4 billion.
The decline is attributed to the sluggish semiconductor industry performance, a delayed recovery in ICT demand, and the base effect of a record-breaking April last year.
The downturn affected all major ICT segments. For example, semiconductors, the backbone of the industry, plunged 40.5 percent year-on-year as shipments and unit prices continued to fall.
Due to a slowdown in international demand, mobile phones and display units plunged 41.6 percent and 30.5 percent, respectively.
Computers and peripherals also fell 66.7% due to lower data center and server equipment exports.
Regionally, there were significant declines in exports to China (including Hong Kong) by 39.0%, the US by 40.1%, the EU by 36.8%, and Japan by 25.1%.
Vietnam also experienced a 26.7% decline in ICT exports, primarily due to declining industry demand.
The industry's SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) also registered a decline of 17.7%, with the semiconductor, display, mobile phone, and computer and peripheral equipment segments being the most affected.
ICT imports decreased by 14.0% year-on-year from USD 12.1 billion to USD 10.4 billion, with China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan, and the United States being the major importing regions.
Despite the overall decline, some segments showed resilience.
Mobile phones and secondary batteries in the US grew by 68.5% and 22.5%, respectively. Similarly, secondary batteries to Japan increased by 18.0%.
However, this decline was primarily attributed to the global economic slowdown and specific industry challenges, such as the semiconductor industry.
Policymakers and industry stakeholders must closely monitor these trends and develop strategies to navigate these challenging times.